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Angus Productions Inc.
Copyright © 2011
Angus Productions Inc.

Cattle Industry Leaders Address Convention's Opening Session

by Troy Smith for Angus Productions Inc.

DENVER (Feb. 2, 2011) — The Opening General Session officially kicked off the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention in Denver, with remarks from the respective leaders of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (CBB) and the American National CattleWomen (ANCW). Their comments, delivered Wednesday afternoon, were tailored to inspire members of their organizations to work together on behalf of the beef industry. Also presented were highlights of a proposed long-range plan for guiding their collaborative efforts.


First, however, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper welcomed beef producers to the Convention’s host state, charging them to reconnect with a U.S. population whose majority has little understanding of how food is produced. The governor called a safe and reliable source of food every bit as important to national security as a consistent supply of oil. He also encouraged industry members to be involved, to make government that more frugal and efficient.


“This is the only country in the world where the people control their government, though it doesn’t always seem like it,” said Hickenlooper. “We have to reinvent our relationship with government and bring it back to core values.”


Alabama beef producer and ANCW President Lana Slaten echoed the governor, saying farmers and ranchers face more and more challenges as the U.S. shifts farther away from an agrarian society. A lack of understanding concerning how food and fiber is produced has created a widening gap between an increasingly urbanized consumer base and the people who generate those products.


“Our job — yours and mine — is to bridge that gap,” said Slaten.


Steve Foglesong, an Illinois cattleman whose term as NCBA president concludes during the convention, told the producer audience that they play a pivotal role in the Denver meetings. He said their response to industry challenges and the policy they shape will direct the industry during the year ahead. Foglesong recounted battles waged in the past year, noting a few losses and some big wins.


Listed among the latter was finally seeing, after 25 years of advocacy, government approval of a nutrition label for beef products. And NCBA input to head off apparent efforts to move Americans toward a more plant-based diet resulted in the recent release of updated USDA dietary guidelines that Foglesong termed “not too bad.”


He also noted how the U.S. secretary of agriculture had been convinced to take another more critical look at a proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule that, he said, threatened modern cattle marketing practices.


Probably the biggest win, said Foglesong, was gaining a two-year reprieve from a return to estate tax provisions that would threaten the future of many family cattle operations.


Foglesong said there are battles yet to win, including the fight against overregulation by government agencies. But there are indications, added Foglesong, that President Obama  intends to rein in overzealous agencies, including GIPSA and especially the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose attempted regulatory overreach threatens not only the beef industry but rural America in general.


“Mark my words and write this down,” Foglesong stated. “NCBA will join with other agricultural organizations, congressional leaders and other government officials to hold the president accountable to this commitment.”


Also speaking during the Opening General Session was Dan Dierschke, chairman of the CBB, which administers the dollar-per-head beef checkoff. He thanked Foglesong for his leadership during a compliance review of NCBA’s role as a contractor carrying out beef promotion programs funded by the checkoff. In the checkoff, said Dierschke, beef producers have a self-help program that benefits the bottom line of every individual operation.


“Think about where we would be without it,” Dierschke said. “Checkoff programs improve our ability to survive difficult times and thrive in better times. Think about where we would be without programs aimed at improving opportunities for all producers, all brands and all products."


The Opening Session audience was given a first look at a proposed Beef Industry Long-Range Plan which a task force, with representation from multiple organizations, has drafted with the intent of meeting a vision of “An industry united around a common goal of being the world’s most trusted and preferred source of beef and beef products.”


The Plan outlines core strategies, including: improving domestic consumer preference for beef, capitalizing on global growth opportunities, strengthening the image of beef and the beef industry, protecting and enhancing beef producers’ freedom to operate, improving industry trust, openness and relationships, and positioning the U.S. cow herd for growth.


Convention attendees were urged to learn about the Plan in more detail during subsequent meetings, including the Policy Division Forum. The Plan will be considered for adoption during meetings on Saturday.





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